Acting Accountant General Meets senior Finance Management Team
The Acting Accountant General (AAG)’s online Indaba with Government of Zimbabwe (GoZ) senior finance management team held on the 16th of September 2020 was a resounding success. The primary objective of the online workshop was the AAG’s update on the Public Finance Management Enhancement Project (PFMEP). PFMEP encompasses a raft of Public Sector Finance Management Reforms that seek to transform the management of the public purse in Zimbabwe. Government of Zimbabwe is implementing the project with support from Donor partners. The entire project includes the expansion of GoZ’s current accounting system, migration to a new chart of accounts, strengthening of internal controls and reporting, strengthening external auditing, improving the oversight role of Parliament in public finances and facilitation of effective project management and monitoring. The virtual rendezvous of the Finance supremoes included attendance by Finance Directors from all Line Ministries, Constitutional and statutory bodies as well as heads of Government Internal Audit Teams.
The timing of the update workshop was mostly suitable given the disruptions exerted on PFMEP activities by Covid 19 induced lockdowns in the preceding months. In his keynote address, the Acting Accountant General reiterated “the need to embrace the innovations coming with the (PFMEP)”. The innovations are necessary in increasing accountability and transparency as well as improving decision making on matters pertaining to public finances. The AAG also underscored how the PFMEP dovetails with the Zimbabwean Government’s devolution agenda. For example, the decentralization of financial transacting to districts, local authorities, Statutory and retention funds through the PFMEP falls in the realm of Government’s vision to cascade and localize governance. As a matter of fact, the AAG emphasized the critical role that the senior finance management team is expected to play in ensuring that the public finance management reforms take root in Zimbabwe. They are the custodians of financial management in all their respective government entities and they lead large management and operational teams. Resultantly, the success of the PFMEP hugely depends on their leadership and willingness to embrace the reforms.
It is worthwhile to note the following key PFMEP milestones that the project has been working from the AAG’s update:
- The implementation of a cocktail of robust additional functionalities to the accounting system used by the Government of Zimbabwe; the Public Finance Management System (PFMS). These functionalities aim to augment planning, budgeting and reporting on public finances.
- Decentralization of the PFMS to districts, local authorities and statutory & retention funds.
- Creation of interfaces between the PFMS and accounting systems of other key government entities like ZIMRA and RBZ.
- Migration activities to a new Chart of Accounts to enhance internal control systems and reporting
- Adoption activities of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) to ensure compliance by December 2025.
- Activities to strengthen the office of the Auditor Genera (OAG)
- Activities to improve the role of Parliament in Public Finance Management
- Project Management and Motoring Activities
Despite any noted setbacks for the PFMEP and the delays in key project activities by the global Covid 19 pandemic, it is imperative to note key success stories from the AAG’s Update .The notable accomplishments for the project include the following:
- The completion of configuration activities on the additional functionalities on the PFMS. Most of the new modules are ready for User Training and are ready to be rolled out by the project deadline of 31 December 2020.
- The successful completion of interfaces between the PFMS and external systems from key government entities. A key example is the interface with ZIMRA.
- Completion of PFMS decentralization to twenty one (21) district kiosks and forty five (45)statutory funds
- Delivery completion of all equipment for the remaining forty- one (41) district kiosks. Installations are already underway
- Completion of Data Centre installation for the PFMS Production Server in Harare and the Disaster Recovery Server in Bulawayo.
- Migration to the new Chart of Accounts for all line ministries, some local authorities and retention funds. The migration process is still ongoing for the remaining local authorities and statutory funds.
- The creation of a standard asset register
- Comprehensive capacity building and professionalization of the public sector accountant. Seventy seven (77) Officers have already been certified in pilot Online ICAZ Certification.
- The timely tabling of the 2018 External Audit Report by the Office of the Auditor General (OAG)
- Capacity Building for Auditors from the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) and for Private Firms
- Successful Performance Audits for two (2) State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) and two (2) Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs)
- Development of a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Training Manual
- Successful Publication of citizens budget in the last two years (2019 and 2020)
- Support for pre-budget and post-budget consultative meetings conducted by Parliament.
- Procurement of Project equipment. For example, procurement of equipment for the two (2) data centres and all district kiosks
- Procurement of various consultancy services.
In Conclusion, it is imperative to note that the PFMEP seeks to reform public finance management in Zimbabwe. The online Workshop conducted by the Acting Accountant General sought to provide insights into the status of this transformative project. The success of this large Information Technology (IT) project largely depends on Government of Zimbabwe’s willingness to harness its benefits. As such, the senior finance management team is a vital cog in the PFMEP implementation. They are responsible for all financial Management in their entities. It is therefore incumbent upon them to exhibit leadership traits that entice their followers to see the good that the PFMEP is bringing. The project has been faced with many daunting challenges. Chief among the challenges has been the outbreak of the Covid 19 Pandemic outbreak that halted project activities for a period close to six (6) months. However, it is encouraging to note that the project is back on its tracks and that many activities have resumed in the last two months. The project teams too, appear very much geared and energized to deliver the project by the deadline of 31 December 2020. There has also been a commendable and visible support and leadership role from senior management in the Government of Zimbabwe. The donor partners who are partnering the Government of Zimbabwe in the delivering of the project have also remained steadfast in key sponsorship and support initiatives.